Update: after months of rumors that a family-friendly, trackless dark ride based upon Ratatouille would be coming to Epcot’s France pavilion at Walt Disney World, the new attraction has finally been confirmed! Officially, the attraction is set to open by 2021 in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Unofficially, the plan is to debut the ride by Summer 2020.
Permits have been filed, and for roughly the last year, construction has been occurring on a large plot of land including the expansion pad behind France and Morocco. In this post, we’ll take a look at those permits, and also offer some thoughts on Ratatouille: the Adventure (which we’ve experienced at the Walt Disney Studios Park).
Note: what follows is the rumors for the Ratatouille dark ride, as written prior to Disney officially announcing the attraction at the D23 Expo…
This rumor has been floating around since construction was underway on the Disneyland Paris version of the attraction, and in recent months, it has gained momentum. In our 8 Huge Epcot Rumors post, we ranked this as the #1 rumor based upon likelihood of occurring. These permits bring us one step closer to Ratatouille: the Adventure being officially announced by Disney.
At this point, the only reason an announcement would not occur at the D23 Expo (click here to read our other D23 Expo predictions and rumors) is if Disney is waiting until April 4, 2018, so they can have some epic news for World Rat Day. (Respect.) If you want to see for yourself what the permits entail, click here. I’m not adept at analyzing this sort of thing, so you probably should look for yourself and draw your own conclusions. With that said, here’s my analysis…
My initial take was that this could be one of two things: either a new World Showcase pavilion (also rumored) or Ratatouille: the Adventure. It’s important to note that the permit does not indicate the substance of what’s being developed, as it pertains to stormwater management (a necessary precursor to any substantive plans).
Upon closer inspection of the permits, it seems less likely to be a stand-alone pavilion. While it takes up an expansion pad that was set aside for an entire country, too much of this work is back-of-house in France. There’s also also some indication that whatever is built will be concealed from the existing World Showcase promenade, which wouldn’t make sense if it’s a new pavilion.
I’ve cobbled together the below illustration by overlaying the area of the permit onto a Google Maps view of the current France and Morocco pavilions. It’s imprecise, but should give you a better idea of what’s being impacted–and not impacted–by this permit…
To me, that suggests that this is an extension of France. While the area of the permit is pretty large (nearly 6 acres), once you add landscaping and a queue to the large show building, it seems about right.
Below is another rudimentary illustration I’ve made, showing the size of the show building (outlined in blue) for Ratatouille: the Adventure in Walt Disney Studios Park. Presumably/hopefully, Epcot won’t be getting Bistrot Chez Remy, so I’ve limited my outline to what I believe is the main show building, which more or less matches the ride blueprint…
Compare that to the nearby Toy Story Land for scale. Pretty large.
Okay, let’s star discussing the plans for Epcot by addressing the fate of Impressions de France. It’s no secret that this is one of our favorite attractions at Walt Disney World. Heck, we named our “Impressions de Bricker Trip Report” after it, and have now visited over half of the filming locations in France’s travelogue. (Yes, on purpose.)
My feelings about Impressions de France are a bit…complicated? There is no ideal scenario here. As is, the attraction is dated (although surprisingly not as bad as it could be). However, I don’t want to see it updated because I fear we’d end up with another leaning, CGI’d-out Eiffel Tower. If it were to close for Ratatouille: the Adventure, I’d be sad, but I’d also realize it had an exceptional, longer-than-expected run.
My best-case scenario for Impressions de France is it just continuing its run as long as possible, as-is. If the permits are any indication, there’s a fairly decent chance of exactly that happening. As it stands, it appears that the queue for Ratatouille: the Adventure will start on the far (U.K.) side of the France pavilion, wind behind the current pavilion, and have the show building situated between France and Morocco.
Frankly, I find this difficult to believe. Plans are not concrete until they’re, well, concrete, and it would make far more sense to enter through what’s currently the Impressions de France entrance rather than an out-of-the-way side location. Plus, Imagineering has a recent history of turning World Showcase theater space into queue space.
It just seems odd that Disney would make an effort to save a 35-year old film, even one with (presumably?) minimal operational and upkeep costs. Who knows, though. Maybe Bob Iger is low-key a member of the Brenda the Sheep Appreciation Society, and has demanded that Impressions de France be saved at all costs.
Like France itself, Impressions de France is beautiful and (mostly) timeless, so I hope it keeps running for another couple of decades. Now, let’s turn to some thoughts on Ratatouille: the Adventure.
We understand that a lot of people are excited at the prospect of Ratatouille: the Adventure. For the most part, we assume this is on the basis of seeing videos on YouTube (which in this case do it “injustice” by concealing some of the weaknesses) and the concept in isolation. We were excited to experience this attraction for the first time, too. On paper, the idea is brilliant, and could be an exceptional attraction if well-executed.
Unfortunately, it’s sloppily executed, and there are only flashes of that brilliance in the actual ride experience, and many more instances of immersiveness and suspension of disbelief failing due to subpar design. Its integration of screens and physical sets is amateurish, and falls well short of Universal efforts like Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and even Transformers: the Ride.
I know others disagree with me, and Ratatouille: the Adventure’s popularity bears out that I’m “wrong.” I’d liken Ratatouille: the Adventure to Toy Story Mania. I don’t necessarily have anything against Toy Story Mania, but its guest satisfaction ratings confound me. It’s routinely ranked as one of the top 5 attractions at Walt Disney World by guests, which is puzzling to me given its lack of depth and simplicity. I don’t completely agree with those who call it a “moving Wii game” but they aren’t that far off.
If Toy Story Mania were just viewed as a third-tier attraction–the kind that rounds out a day in the park and isn’t a ‘flagship’ or E-Ticket draw, I’d have no issue with it. I think the experience is very fun even if I don’t think it’s an objectively good attraction. The ride more or less lives up to its full potential. For what it is, it’s a good addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
By contrast, I don’t see such a way to view Ratatouille: the Adventure in this light. I’ve heard it described as a high-tech Fantasyland dark ride to hedge expectations. While I can appreciate that angle, for me it will always come back to cost and potential. This is a pricey attraction, and one with a ton of (unrealized) potential.
My hope is that someone in Imagineering agrees with this assessment and calls for some design changes in the clone. Walt Disney Imagineering has learned a thing or two about using screens in the years since this was first built. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure demonstrates that Imagineering is capable of “out-screening” Universal Creative (but that attraction also probably had a budget that would make Ratatouille’s look meager). Pandora likewise uses screens effectively. There’s no excuse for another amateurish screen-based production in 2020 (or whenever this opens).
It seems like some of the tweaks that could be made to improve Ratatouille: the Adventure would not be too difficult, but then again, what do I know? I just complain about stuff on the internet, I have no actual experience with design or engineering.
If changes are made to improve the immersiveness of Ratatouille: the Adventure, it’s an addition to Epcot that works for me. This is the direction that Epcot is trending and has been for years; if more characters are going to be added to the park (and they are!), I’d rather they be in sensible ways. Ratatouille feels like a love letter to Paris, and because of that, I think its presence feels appropriate in circa-2017 Epcot. I don’t think Bistrot Chezy Remy fits into World Showcase tonally (its design is way too cartoonish), so I’m glad that it does not appear to be in the cards for Epcot. As it stands, the current France pavilion should serve as a nice buffer/transition into the France of Ratatouille. In short, I could see this working…I could also see it being a disappointment if it’s a direct clone. We shall see what the future holds!
What do you think about adding Ratatouille: the Adventure to the France pavilion in Epcot? If you’ve experienced the version in the Walt Disney Studios Park, what did you think of it? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any other thoughts about the future or long-term vision for Epcot? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share in the comments below!